Northstand Nostalgia: Pompey's indomitable spirit is shown again

My father first took me to Fratton Park way back in January 1970, to witness a regulation 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers.

Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 12:00 pm
Avram Grant understood Pompey's indomitable spirit

Nicky Jennings was our goalscorer, however, I have no recollection of goal or game as my eight-year-old span of attention had expired at roughly the same time as my Spangles supply!

Subsequent Fratton visits became few and far between until, in late 1972, I started to develop some of the all-consuming symptoms associated with a common virus, known as ‘The Pompey Bug’.

During its incubation period, myself and many other children of that time were diagnosed by their parents as having contracted this highly infectious contagion.

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The club itself did its best to cure us all of our youthful exuberant fanaticism.

Reared upon tales of back-to-back championships and sell-out Fratton crowds, ‘Our Fratton’ was one of a continual struggle.

A fortress, it was not.

And to add to our woes the club’s very existence became threatened due to financial mismanagement.

An SOS was issued to all Pomponians, who did not ignore their mayday call!

SOS Pompey was orchestrated by a Pompey fan, the late Harry Garcia.

The Pompey action group was subsequently formed, among whose number included Messrs Ansell, Colebourne, Gibbs, Owen, Palmer, Weld and quite a few lesser lights.

The group committed themselves to keeping the club alive, although their actions could not prevent the drop from division two to division four (1976-78).

It was having reached this nadir that my Pompey love affair really blossomed.

When promotion was clinched at Northampton in May 1980, the unbridled joy released among its 10,000 Blue Army recruits, is still palpable to this day.

We had carried those stories of past glory and had suffered the pain of double relegation.

We had nursed the club back from its darkest hour.

We were now going to enjoy our moment!

Manager Frank Burrows, allied with the wisdom of Pompey’s favourite son Jimmy Dickinson, had re-kindled the Pompey spirit.

In time the baton would be passed on to Bobby Campbell and ultimately Alan Ball to march us back up to the top flight.

This Pompey spirit saw us rise again in the noughties, as FA Cup winners and European representatives.

The same indomitable spirit ensured our survival from a succession of charlatan owners, who feasted at our expense on the top tables of the Premier League and, with their bellies full, discarded the lifeless carcass.

But as Uncle Avram noted at the time, our spirt is unbreakable.

We are now the present owners of our club.

Its destiny is within our own hands and the rise will commence.

It has never been about if, only when.

Last weekend in Pompey’s Victory Suite, I witnessed at close quarters superb community spirit.

Ex-players and fans raised £7,000 to aid Andy ‘Pepe’ Bache in his recovery from the serious injuries he sustained last summer in France.

Huge thanks from all of Pepe’s pals to Alan Knight, Ray Crawford, Jake Payne, Tony Male and all PFC staff for enabling this fantastic event to take place.

• A regular contributor to the Football Mail’s letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch and now writes a column in the Sports Mail every Sunday.